Students divided over Coulter's cancelled speech
Published Wednesday, March 24, 2010 2:30PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:16AM EDT
Students at the University of Ottawa are divided over the outcome of a cancelled speech by outspoken U.S. conservative Ann Coulter. While some applaud steps taken to prevent Coulter from speaking, others view it as a disgrace that stifled debate at an institution that is supposed to stimulate discussion.
"I think it's a real shame and a real embarrassment on our university -- the fact that for the first time, they used intimidation tactics to intimidate a speaker on campus, and if they're going to do so, they should do so with some level of consistency to all speakers," said University of Ottawa student David Piccini, who referred to the situation as an embarrassment to his school.
"Many people disagree with a lot of things Ann Coulter has to say – I was one of them. But I was looking forward to going out there and doing this the Canadian way and debating it in an appropriate manner."
Protest shuts down event
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the University of Ottawa early Tuesday night to protest Coulter's presence.
Police eventually showed up and blocked the door to the building where Coulter was scheduled to speak.
Although organizers acknowledged Coulter was likely never in extreme danger, conservative political activist Ezra Levant said the protests were designed to intimidate her. Levant told CTV's Canada AM that police advised organizers to call off the event.
"Let me say this: Ann Coulter is a controversial person and her humour is not to everyone's taste and her politics are not to everyone's taste. So what?" he said.
"If you don't like her, ignore her or go and debate her. But for the student body of the University of Ottawa to intimidate the event into being shut down is un-Canadian."
Student association satisfied
Meanwhile, the head of the university's student association said he was happy Coulter didn't get the opportunity to speak.
"I know this is a difficult debate and it's not a black and white issue, but Ann Coulter constantly and consistently doesn't just go into the realm of free speech, but goes way past it into the realm of hate speech where she condones murder, condones violence and she actually incites that type of behaviour and that's the type of thing we do not allow in Canada and I'm proud we do not allow at the University of Ottawa," said Seamus Wolfe.
Francois Houle, the University of Ottawa's provost and academic vice-president, wrote Coulter a personal email earlier this week warning her about free speech limitations in Canada.
The private email, which was leaked to conservative news organizations, noted that Canada's Charter of Rights meant that "promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."
He went on to say the university is "always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus."
Coulter spoke at the University of Western Ontario in London on Monday, where she told a female Muslim student to "take a camel" as an alternative to flying.
Fatima Al-Dhaher was on the receiving end of the comment, which was made after she asked Coulter about previous statements in which Coulter said Muslims shouldn't be allowed on airplanes and should take "flying carpets" instead.
Coulter is scheduled to speak in Calgary on Thursday. Her speaking tour is titled, "Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech."
With a report from CTV.ca